The unified support and advocacy of Organization of African Union First Ladies will be crucial for kicking polio out of Africa.

ADDIS ABABA – The African Union First Ladies made a call for action on 31 January 2015 for continent-wide efforts, leadership and political commitment to kick polio out of Africa. The First Ladies agreed to advocate for a polio-free Africa as a top priority for their governments in 2015 at an event jointly organized by the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (WHO, Rotary, CDC and UNICEF) at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The First Ladies pledged their personal and country commitment to deliver a polio-free Africa through heightened advocacy and personal participation in supplementary immunization and accelerated routine immunization activities, such as the African Vaccination Week. Calls for action were heard from the First Ladies of Chad, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together – thank you OAFLA for going the distance with us to end polio,” Dr Rebecca Martin, Director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division and the Moderator of the event, said acknowledging the important role of the First Ladies in leading advocacy efforts.

The WHO is in the process of formalizing a partnership with the Organization of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA). A memorandum of understanding and a joint action plan are being prepared. “The draft agreement between OAFLA and WHO provides an opportunity for intensified engagement to protect all African children from polio and other disease” said Dr Pierre M’Pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia at the meeting on 31 January 2015. Some of the areas for collaboration between WHO and OAFLA will be around continental and country level advocacy to mobilize resources to support HIV/AIDS and maternal and child health activities.

The OAFLA polio eradication pledge coincided with the 24th Ordinary Session of the OAFLA General Assembly and the 24th Summit of the African Union. The WHO Regional Director for Africa was represented by Dr Tigest Ketsela, Director of the Health Promotion Cluster at the 24th General Assembly of the OAFLA and by Dr Pierre M’Pele-Kilebou, WHO Representative to Ethiopia, assisted by the WHO Liaison Officer to the AU and ECA, at the AU Summit.

For more information, please contact: Dr Innocent Ntaganira, WHO Liaison Office to the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Email: ntaganirai@who.int

Source: WHO – Africa

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